ARUSHA: The East African Community (EAC) remains committed to partnering with all stakeholders to develop policies and guidelines that address human rights violations and challenges faced by refugees in East Africa.
The EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Infrastructure, Productive, Social and Political Sectors, Andrea Aguer Ariik Malueth, stated that the EAC is working to address state fragility, establish and monitor regional peace mechanisms, implement democratic electoral processes, promote regional and bilateral mediation and reconciliation processes, and support transitional justice processes in the region.
He made the remarks during a courtesy call at the EAC Headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania, by Mamadou Dian Balde, the Director of the UNHCR Regional Bureau for East and Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes. Malueth received the UNHCR official on behalf of the EAC Secretary General, Dr Peter Mathuki.
Malueth revealed that the EAC is pursuing a regional approach to economic inclusion through investment in climate reform, financial inclusion, and private sector investments in refugee hosting communities and areas where refugees return.
“We are currently working on finalizing and adopting the EAC Regional Refugee Management Policy and developing costed action plans to ensure harmonized regional approaches that are consistent with international standards, including access to quality asylum procedures, protection and assistance, digital identity documents, family unity, and durable solutions,” said Malueth.
The Deputy Secretary General disclosed that the EAC is also developing joint guidelines on the inclusion of forcibly displaced and stateless populations, particularly women and youth, in humanitarian, peace, and development processes.
He noted that the region is currently enjoying relative peace and security, except in Eastern DRC, which has experienced insecurity and underdevelopment for the past three decades.
“This situation has resulted in internally displaced persons in Eastern DRC and refugees in neighboring countries,” he added.
To address the issue of refugees and asylum seekers in the EAC region, Article 10 of the Protocol on Peace and Security establishes common mechanisms for refugee management.
Malueth observed further that the EAC and UNHCR have maintained a cordial relationship over the years, leading to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that stipulates cooperation on preserving and promoting the right to seek and enjoy asylum for persons in need.
For his side, Mr Balde stated that the UN agency is mobilizing support to assist the EAC in better managing refugee matters.
He emphasized the importance of supporting refugees on the continent to live better lives by providing them with life skills through training so that their potential is not wasted.
The UNHCR official also mentioned that it is the dream of every refugee to have a better life and return to their homes once things stabilize.
Also present at the meeting were UNHCR Senior Legal Officer for East Africa Mr Peter Muriuki, the EAC Police Liaison Officer, Mr Julius Mbati, the Principal International Relations Officer Ms Suma Mwakyusa, and Mr Stephen Niyonzima, the Principal Labour and Employment Officer.